Randy Evans's blog

We don’t need a ‘leader’ like this one

I was a kid from small-town Iowa when I first laid eyes on the United States Capitol.

It was 1962. My family squeezed into our Dodge and drove to our nation’s capital for the vacation of a lifetime. It was all about history.

We walked through the White House. We climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and peered up at the statue of the great leader.

We stood in awe in the Capitol rotunda, with the massive dome soaring above us. We walked the ornate corridors and made our way into the gallery of the House of Representatives. From there, we gazed down at the representatives on the House floor, where important debates have made history.

That 11-year-old boy thought about the presidents and other leaders who walked where he was walking. That boy never imagined that someday a lawless mob of Americans, egged on by the president of the United States, of all people, would lay siege to this inspiring building.

No justification for shutting the public out

There are some high-minded legal principles written into Iowa laws and rulings by our state’s Supreme Court.

But in recent weeks, one of those sound principles has run into a few closed-minded state officials and the closed doors of government.

Some officials prefer to conduct the people’s business without being bothered with having the pesky public around.

This has occurred during the Iowa Board of Regents process for learning what students and employees at the University of Iowa hope to see in a new UI president. This has occurred as the Iowa Department of Public Health tapped into the advice of medical experts on what priorities should be established for access to the new coronavirus vaccines.

‘Unemployment’ is not the same for everyone

The boss told Gus Malzahn on Sunday that he was no longer needed. His employment was ending immediately.

With that blunt conversation, Malzahn became another statistic of 2020. He took his place next to the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs this year — a year when unemployment, at times, rivaled those dreadfully dark days of the Great Depression.

But Malzahn is not in the same boat as most of the others.

There are many reasons for gratitude

With all of the frustrations, the tragedies and the maddening political chaos that have been with us this year, I have the perfect recipe for our Thanksgiving celebrations.

No, it is not a new take on green bean casserole. It’s not some newfangled way to ease the strain on our belts after a holiday meal.

More than anything else, what our celebrations need this year is an extra helping of gratitude.

WW2 lesson is ignored during this pandemic

Forgive me, but I don’t think Americans are as tough as we used to be.

Specifically, I don’t think many of us see the big picture the way our parents and our grandparents did.

I venture down this treacherous path because I think this lack of toughness is affecting Iowans’ response to the coronavirus pandemic. Stay with me, and we’ll come back to this shortly. But first, some context.

During the 1940s, ordinary Iowans from Ackley to Zwingle, together with Americans all across this land, helped the Allied powers win World War II. The vast majority of them did this without ever putting on a military uniform, shouldering a weapon or digging a foxhole.

The governor has to follow the law, too

When the Iowa Legislature wrote the state’s public records law 50 years ago, lawmakers wanted to guarantee that anyone could obtain copies of state and local government records that are not designated by statute to be kept confidential.

There is no asterisk in the law. There is no exemption saying the governor can ignore the statute.

But there is evidence Gov. Kim Reynolds believes otherwise.

Lawyers representing the governor made a troubling admission this month in a Polk County District Court lawsuit. They acknowledged that a member of Reynolds’ staff directed the Iowa Department of Public Health on more than one occasion to disregard a request for public records about coronavirus testing.

Just leave arrests for law officers

My closest friend spent his working life in law enforcement. He handled everything from minor traffic violations to homicides, with assorted robberies, break-ins, vandalism and domestic assaults in between.

Sadly, Denny has been gone for three years. Among his family’s treasured possessions are his sheriff’s badges, the shoulder patches from his uniforms and the large, thick keys to the cells in the now-demolished jail he ran.

In a way, I am relieved Denny was not here last week when the news broke that the FBI had broken up what they said was a plot by vigilantes to “arrest” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and either put her on “trial” for treason or kill her.

The president’s taxes and so much more . . .

The events and issues of the past couple of weeks have been swirling around in my head like Toto, Dorothy and the debris picked up in that famous Kansas cyclone.

Here are some thoughts from that vortex:

* * *

HOW DO YOU COMPARE? People were buzzing Sunday night over news reports dealing with federal income taxes, how much some people pay (or don’t pay) and how people are using special provisions in tax laws to reduce their obligations to zero or close to zero.

‘Principles’ shouldn’t be a matter of convenience

One of my co-workers at the Des Moines Register was Gene Raffensperger, an excellent reporter with a delicious sense of humor.

When Raff was working on a dull story, he often would announce to colleagues, “We’re going to need another tanker of Murine. I’ve got an eye-burner here.”

Raff is no longer with us. But if he were, he would be telling us we need another tanker right now, this one filled with Maalox – because there will be lots of upset stomachs in the coming weeks.

Americans already are dealing with tremendous amounts of stress, thanks to the worst epidemic in a century, the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, and the most contentious presidential election in our lifetimes.

This mega-level stress has increased since Friday night, when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a trailblazer for women’s equality, died at age 87.

Replacing a Supreme Court justice never is a picnic. But it’s obvious filling Ginsburg’s seat will be an epic knock-down, drag-out battle.

Two names guarantee that: Mitch McConnell and Merrick Garland.

We should not just accept deaths like these

Twenty years ago, when the death of 2-year-old Shelby Duis outraged Iowans, I was confident the Spirit Lake tragedy would soon bring change to our state.

I probably was naive.

In 2016, when Natalie Finn, 16, was found near death in a middle-class neighborhood in West Des Moines, I was confident that tragedy would bring change to our state.

I probably was naive. Again.

In 2017, when Sabrina Ray, 16, was found dead in her home in Perry, I was convinced the time for change was imminent.

I probably was naive. Once again.

So little has come from the deaths of these three children to prevent similar tragedies in the future. That is a tragedy itself, because state officials appear more focused on the optics, rather than the reality, of dealing with these entirely avoidable deaths.

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